Dr. Waudo Siganga tells Clifford Agugoesi from the outset, banks in Kenya resisted the establishment of M-Pesa, but today, the money service is popular among financial institutions.
Africa Telecom & IT: Give us the ICT architecture in Kenya and how does the Kenyan Computer Society fit into this?
Dr. Waudo Siganga: We have ICT at various levels. First of all is the public sector ICT, which is led by the Ministry of ICT and within that Ministry, there are some specialized agencies that deal with ICT matters- one of them is the ICT Authority of Kenya, that deals mainly with the issues of development of ICT, in the country. Then we also have the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) which is the regulator for the ICT industry and we have a few other bodies –we have the Communications Secretariat that deals with the development of ICT policy for the government. We also have a national broadcaster, which falls under the Ministry. Then we have the postal services that deals with postal activities. That’s on the public side. We also have the private sector ICT, which is mainly the ICT companies, ICT organisations, and that is where my organization, the Kenyan Computer Society falls in. We represent the industry as well as the ICT professionals.
AT & IT: How would you characterize the chemistry between and among these bodies?
DWS: I would say it is good. Both public and private sector work together. There is a good level of multistakeholderism which has taken hold in the country. For example, there is an Internet Governance Forum, which is one of the issues we have been discussing here in Abuja. In Kenya, we have an Internet Governance Forum which is held once every year. That meeting is one of the good illustrations of multistakeholderism. So the chemistry is very good, because, in that meeting, you find participation coming from civil society, from private sector, academia and from the technical community. Another example, apart from that one, is the Management of the National Internet Resource, the dot.ke, which is actually the country code top level domain. It is run by an organization whose management is also multistakeholder involving government and the private sector, civil society and all other stakeholders. Basically, generally, by using those two examples, the chemistry between the players is a good chemistry.
AT & IT: Let us address the M-Pesa disruption of the mobile payment space in your country. How critical was the role of your Society in the whole process?
DWS: M-Pesa has had a positive impact not just on the economy, but the entire Kenyan society. It completely changed a lot of things in the way the society runs, the way money moves, peoples’ lifestyles, et cetera. And in terms of what role the Society played, I think it was an important one, because, M-pesa, like any other new technology, for it to be accepted, for it to be absorbed into being, requires a lot of policy framework and I can tell you in Kenya, M-Pesa it was designed to overcome certainchallenges, before it was integrated into the society. One of them was lack of a legal framework to run the M-Pesa, so there was a lot of resistance from other players, particularly, the banks that did not want M-Pesa to be established because it looked like it was competing with them, yet the banks were being regulated by a banking act which was not also covering the M-Pesa. So from the beginning, banks were very much against establishment of M-Pesa. So we had to work, as private sector, with the ministries and we came up with some kind of policy or an approach that it is better to do things, even if there is no legal framework, but we know that this is the right thing to do, it is better to push ahead with it and we wait and see the consequencies later on.
AT & IT: Were the banks kicking against M-Pesa then because the business model was telco-led?
DWS: Yes. It was like it was an unfair competition for them, because, this is an organization that is starting to deal with money matters but it was not regulated under the Banking Act, because it restricts them from the work that they can do, so it was and in any human endeavor competition is always unwelcome, so there was active resistance from the banks. But the strange thing was that later on the banks realized that after M-Pesahad stabilized or had established itself, they realized that they can actually partner with M-Pesa and it would be to their mutual benefit. Right now, there is a lot of co-operation between the banking institutions and M-Pesa; infact, very many banks are looking for ways and means they can create new products to work with M-Pesa.
AT & IT: Do you think Africa’s voice is being sufficiently heard at the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and if not, what concrete steps should be taken to reverse this?
DWS: I think, what I should say first of all, is that it has met my expectations. So if we are thinking of raising the level it would be going even beyond expectations, because, for example, I was one of those that came up with the idea of the IGF way back in 2003 and 2005. Then the first IGF was held in 2006 in which I attended and so a number of years I was a member of what was known as the Multistakeholder Advisory Group or MAG, which is the organization that manages the IGF programmes in terms of all the annual IGF meetings. I served on that for some years and also there were other members of the Africa ICT Alliance(AfICTA) and other members outside AfICTA which have served the IGF, particularly under MAG. One of them those with whom I served in MAG was the chair of AfICTA Dr. Jimson Olufuye. Then there is another gentleman from Egypt who was also a board member of ICANN who has served on the MAG. So I would say that our representation there, presence there and our visibility there have been good, have been high enough. So if we can go higher it will be well and good, but I don’t think we have let anybody down so far.
AT & IT: You belong to the Business Constituency of ICANN (BC-ICANN); does this give you enough exposure to understand fully what goes on in the larger ICANN family?
DWS: Definitely. I think my participation in the BC-ICANN really exposes me to what goes on in ICANN. Within the BC, we discuss all issues that impact on business and related areas within ICANN, so it is open; we have a mailing list where we share all knowledge, information and everything that is going on within ICANN.
AT & IT: Some people have said ICANN is having some confidence issues; would you say the organisation’s confidence level has improved; how would you rate it at the moment?
DWS: Confidence in ICANN has been an on-going thing like in many other organisations. It has been on-going for many years; I will not attribute it to the current leadership by Chehade. It has been something that has been there, because ICANN is an organization which is open and all are free to criticize it, to come up with other ideas, to say that things might not be going the correct way et cetera. ICANN is also an organization that is evolving and definitely it will get better and better. Right now, we are in the process of transferring management of ICANN from IANA to another set up which we are still yet to define, so I look forward to a better ICANN, which is developing over time.
AT & IT: Does ICANN have a robust succession plan; at the exit of Chehade what happens?
The change over was supposed to be done by September 2015, which looks like it is not going to happen; with the management for the IANA functions, maybe it will take longer. So far, Chehade has indicated he is going to retire. I believe there is a succession plan within ICANN , so they are going to put in the machinery to look for a successor and I do not see any reason why a successor would not be found and a good successor at that and in good time as well.
Siganga is the President of the Kenyan Computer Society.